Something serious is rumbling in Social Media

Talk is one thing. Money is quite another.

A couple years ago, this thing called Twitter popped up on the landscape. Sure, it was a lot of fun and pretty much a waste of time. The kids in the company took to it right away and started following each other, tapping out little notes on what they were doing at the time. And they had their Facebook, blogs, Flickr accounts and all sorts of other social media venues they were wasting their time with.

“Let them play,” was the mostly unofficial, official stance many companies took. “At least it keeps them happy and out of my hair.” And every now and again, the bosses would throw these kids a bone, allowing them to speak at a conference or work on a project that involved some social media listening dashboard and other harmless, tech stuff that would amount to nothing. And it would shut the kids up for a while so the bosses could get some real work done.

But then the bosses started noticing that lots of people were on Twitter and Facebook. Lots of folks were interacting with the kids at the keyboards and the kids were becoming the voices of their brands. And the game began changing from one of cheap talk to revenue opportunities being let out the door.

Now there is money to be made collecting, packaging and selling information. Suddenly, social media was no longer a toy. And the walls started to go up around the kids who were the face and voice of the brands. Average Joe could no longer interact with the familiar, casual voice on the other end of a twitter stream. Contracts needed to be signed, releases vetted, HR needed to authorize who could and could not speak at a particular venue.

“The voice of our brand must be aligned with the organization.” “Materials must be pre-approved to ensure no company secrets are revealed during your presentation.” “Legal must approve your tweets to ensure there is not implied contract being made.” And it goes on.

And suddenly — without much fanfare save the deafening sound of large walls falling into place — social media is now a business. And make no mistake about it, a damn serious one. Because social media is no longer just marketing, engagement or customer experience; it is operations. And operations people are deadly, stealthy serious players.

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